A Message to Emily? International Women’s Day 2011!

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release: March 25th 2011

A Message to Emily? And what a “swell” party it was – Speaker’s House and International Women’s Day 2011!

In a special http://www.wpradio.co.uk “A message to Emily” three part radio documentary journalists Linda Fairbrother and Boni Sones OBE criss-cross the State Rooms of Speaker’s House to record interviews with women parliamentarians across party and their guests while they celebrated together 100 years of International Women’s Day.

On 2nd April 1911 a lone suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison hid herself in the broom cupboard in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, in the crypt of St Stephen’s Hall, Westminster, on the night of the census so that she could give her address as the House of Commons.

100 years later there was no need to hide. The Speaker John Bercow opened the doors of his State Rooms to the women MPs from all parties with their friends and special guests from campaigning organisations to mark the Centenary of International Women’s Day.

Emily who died after pinning a sash to the King’s horse at the Epsom races would have been wide-eyed at being allowed into the State Rooms, Speaker’s House, House of Commons. The 16th March party was organised by three women MPs Mary Macleod MP, Kate Green MP and Jo Swinson MP from Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

If walls could have ears? No need – Women’s Parliamentary Radio journalists Linda Fairbrother and Boni Sones captured this sound portrait in this special three part documentary “A Message to Emily?

The Home Secretary and Minister for Women, The Rt Hon Theresa May MP told http://www.wpradio.co.uk:

• “Lynne Featherstone MP has taken on the responsibility as International Champion on violence against women, we have worked hard on violence against women and girls. I chair an inter-ministerial group on Violence Against Women and Girls, it brings all departments together, DFID and others, and we will be able to champion the need to deal with violence against women internationally which blights the lives of many.”

• “To those who say we haven’t done enough I would point to the work we have done. We have published a strategy against violence against women and girls, we have found a permanent solution to women fleeing domestic violence, we have been able to find extra money for rape crisis centres and produce sustainable funding for them the next three years. “

• “In the Home Office despite all the budget cuts we have been able to protect £28 million of expenditure over the next four years for dealing with violence against women and girls, I think we have made some very important steps. We are great supporters of the new UN Agency for Women, and we are looking for that agency to be able to promote the needs of women across the World.”

• “My message to Emily would be we are not complacent and we are still fighting.”

Yvette Cooper MP, the Labour Shadow Home Secretary said:

• “Domestically the issue is making sure we don’t turn the clock back on progress and that you don’t narrow women’s opportunities instead of expanding them. Internationally there are still huge issues in terms of violence against women, and their participation in the political process and debates about women’s lives as well”.

• “It is always right to have international debate and international solidarity about opportunities for women in every country in the World and we have to make sure that is part of British foreign policy it is not just something that is dismissed or ignored. It is also about listening to women’s experiences in other countries and hearing what they themselves are saying.”

Jo Swinson MP, the Liberal Democrat PPS to Vince Cable said:

• “On women’s representation we have moved this issue forward we have got more women elected. There are still barriers we need to address in terms of the way Parliament works and issues of how you juggle the demands of being an MP with family life, and the wider social issue about how men and women split caring responsibilities and the pay gap, standing for Parliament is not cost neutral.”

• “There are a lot of talented women out there who look at Parliament and say “why would I want to be part of that?” We have a job to do in selling the job. Women MPs love the job they do and they can make a difference in their communities and this is the bit that gets lost we need to say “this is why this is a great job to do!”

Speaker Bercow said:

• “International Women’s Day reminds us that we have a duty in whatever our capacity to do something to make a difference for women internationally. These rooms are State Rooms and what better use than to use them to fight the cause for women and equality. We congratulate the trail blazers but there is still a great deal to do and we must get on to do it!”

• “We’re celebrating women in Parliament, but crucially for me is the fact that however many battles we think we have to fight here in the UK, there are women in the World with far more serious circumstances to deal with and we must never forget that.”

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of http://www.wpradio.co.uk said: “www.wpradio.co.uk would like to thank all those who gave interviews to us to celebrate and record for the social history books our “Message to Emily? three part radio documentary to celebrate 100 years of International Women’s Day. Special thanks to the Speaker John Bercow, for allowing us into the State Rooms, and to the organisers Mary Macleod MP, Kate Green MP, Jo Swinson MP. It was as ever, great fun, to be with so many committed and passionate women in one room and hear their special messages to the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. Women’s Political representation was an issue many told us needed to be put to the fore in our Parliament.”

In Part One Boni spoke to:

Caroline Adams from the women’s Parliamentary Labour Party and organiser, Barbara Gorna and Joan Lane film producer. Vicky Booth, Diversity Officer for the Liberal Democrats, Fiona Mactaggart MP and Lydia Simmons. Barbara Keeley MP, Fawcett acting CEO Anna Bird, Sharon Hodgson MP, Sue Tibballs of the Women’s Sports Foundation. Joan Ruddock MP and Councillor Joan Millbank. Maria Eagle MP and Yvette Cooper MP.

In Part Two Boni spoke to:

Baroness Elspeth Howe, Baroness Hussein-Ece. Cherie Blair and Sarina Russo. Lorley Burt MP and Helen Berresford, Kealey Hastick from Platform 51. Helen Grant MP and Martha Kearney BBC journalist. Harriet Harman MP, The speaker John Bercow MP and last but not least the most senior woman in the Cabinet, the Home Secretary and Minister for Women Theresa May MP.

In Part Three Linda spoke to:

Nan Sloane from the Centre for Women and Democracy, Margaret Beckett MP, Baroness Ramsay, Kate Green MP, Lesley Abdela from Shevolution, John Bercow MP, Caroline Spelman MP, and Lee Chalmers of the Downing Street Project, Liberal Democrat supporter Dinti Batstone, Jo Swinson MP.

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

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“One tough woman” Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio
March 21st 2011

Www.wpradio talks to “One tough woman” Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP and a “new face” Luciana Berger MP

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP – “One tough woman”!

The Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green is a formidable campaigner with a reputation for being “One tough woman”! So far she’s managed to get to the top of those red boxes initiatives to stop homophobic bullying in sport, to regulate without legislation “air brushed images” of women in the media and she’s progressed gay marriage rights. On the controversial issues such as “trafficking of women” she tells her critics “look at what we are doing don’t just chant “are you in or are you out”!

Lynne says the Government will not back track on funding the new Agency for UN Women, it has, she says “100 per cent commitment” from her Government. She has had no sleepless nights even on issues such as voting for the tuition fees increase. “If you don’t ask you don’t get”, she says. Lynne has received “nothing but backing” from both Theresa May MP, the Home Secretary and Women’s Minister and the Prime Minister, David Cameron. Theresa and Lynne may look like “the odd couple”, but they do “sit down and talk out”, their differences! “We just find a way through,” she says. In this special interview Our Executive Producer, Boni Sones OBE, spoke to Lynne.

Lynne told Boni:

• “Homophobic bullying is a huge issue. 93 per cent of fans think there should be no homophobia or transphobia in sport but 78 per cent of fans say you will hear anti-gay language on the terraces. The sports field of this country is one of the last places you hear vicious homophobia and you have to tear those barriers down.”
• “Equalities is about social mobility and tackling child poverty and I would say this Government, and I lay claim to all of what this government is doing, is about changing this Country. There is some really tough stuff in it but at the end we will have a fairer and more equal country.”
• “The singular image that is rammed down young girls and boys throats is that you have to be impossibly thin and impossibly beautiful and it is clearly doing damage to young people. I have met with the advertising associations and Media Smart, but we have never considered banning images we have considered labelling. Media Smart has agreed to develop a tool kit to be offered to all schools, which will actually teach children how to view things so they have a realistic and informed approach to what they see. It is just one part of it, and I am really excited about it and my colleague Jo Swinson MP is starting an All Party Parliamentary group on it too.”
• “Yes I have always been out there on these issues such as gay marriages but the victory will be when we have equal marriage and equal partnerships and civil partners being able to register in religious premises. Freedom for LGP people and freedom for those who wish to be religious. It is very nice to have something I campaigned on so forcefully come through in Government in its early stages.”
• “On the European Directive on Trafficking, we haven’t made a final decision on whether to opt in. It doesn’t worry me, I get asked it by Labour every time I go to oral questions, but we are developing an anti-trafficking policy that will go further and faster than anything else.”
• “On the new UN Agency for women, Andrew Mitchell has probably done more for women internationally than those before him. He has placed women full square in the centre of most of the work DFID is doing and put all his budgets behind that as well. We have 100 per cent commitment to UN women, we have committed 1 million for the transition period and in May or June we will announce how much we will put into the main fund but we have to see the strategy first. But we do have 100 per cent commitment we will be funding it. Andrew wants to see what we are doing first.”
• “On gender auditing of the Budget, my understanding is the Treasury has done more than any Treasury in history on this issue. In terms of impact I have never seen so much work going on, and the Government has made strenuous efforts to mitigate the impact on women. We are linking earnings back to pensions, that is something we have been calling for for some time. We have put money into child tax credits, and social care and ring-fencing the health service. We’re fighting on equal pay, we are fighting for flexible working and shared parental leave and women on boards. We are pushing further and faster than anyone in this economic climate.”
• “Tuition fees was probably the hardest decision. Liberal Democrats always believed in abolishing tuition fees. We’ve reached a jolly good compromise what is being delivered is a better system than what was delivered before.”
• “On the HNS everybody is very anxious, you saw the Lib Dem conference, and we heard from Shirley Williams that there are clearly deep concerns but the Prime Minister has made it clear the Government is moving on these. What I am looking for is to see where this Bill ends up and to make sure we don’t have cherry picking, and privatisation by the back door with no accountability.”
• “If you don’t ask you don’t get. I have been very clear about moving certain things up the agenda that are within my portfolio. In terms of my coalition partners I have had nothing but backing from Theresa May and the Prime Minister. There were no problems on equal marriages, there was a desire to move forward to look at equal marriage and equal partnership, it has been a wonderful portfolio to have.”
• “You go fight your corner in Government. Theresa and myself probably look like the odd couple, but coalition is about sitting down and talking it out. We both have to move from our positions and where we get to is probably better than were we would get to on our own. We just find a way through these issues, it is grown up government.”
• “I am not at all worried about my seat of Hornsey and Wood Green, whether we win or lose that isn’t the point. The chance of delivering policies which you think are going to change the world for the better is what it is about and if I lost my seat because of it, so what!”
• “I haven’t changed one iota! I have done what I believed in and was passionate about it. You don’t get all of what you want in life but getting some of what you want is really a big prize.”

Luciana Berger MP meets wpradio.co.uk reporter Linda Fairbrother in our “New Faces” series

Luciana Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, is the Shadow Minister for Climate Change. As a “new face” in Westminster she has achieved a fast rise to the higher echelons of party politics, being the youngest member of Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet and she has already asked three questions at Prime Minister’s Question Time. She attributes her success to “luck” and says being “in the Chamber” is very different from how it looks and sounds on TV.

The challenge with PMQs, she says, is that everybody is in the Chamber! You need to take a pause before you start, it’s a fast pace, you need to speak loudly and quickly to be heard, your question needs to be “pithy” too. Luciana says it’s “a fine art”! She likes the “traditions” of Parliament and the pomp and ceremony of the Speaker’s entry into the Chamber, so parliamentary reform is not top of her agenda, but like others she does want to change the hours on a Tuesday so sittings start and finish earlier. Linda Fairbrother spoke to her.

• “I am trying very hard to do lots of things and take part in all of Parliament and I am making it a priority to spend time in the Chamber, it’s not easy and it is only by practice I know I am going to get better, so I am throwing myself into it.”
• “I was surprised about being given the opportunity to serve on the Front Bench, I am the youngest. I think it is fair to say I had just settled into the role of being an MP, but challenging the Government consistently on an issue is a great way of focusing your activities here in Parliament.”
• “My priority is to be the best constituency MP I can, they are the people that put me here and my number one responsibility is to serve them to the best of my ability. I am loving the role I am doing as Shadow Energy and Climate Change.”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

Times sketch writer Ann Treneman talks to Natascha Engel MP

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio
March 8th 2011

“Face to Face Encounters”: Times sketch writer Ann Treneman talks to Natascha Engel MP who is Chair of the new Backbench Business Committee

So what are those “usual channels” that govern the House of Commons? Ann Treneman, sketch writer of the Times, talks to Natascha Engel MP who chairs the new Backbench Business Committee which was set up on the 15th June 2010.

This is the first Business Committee of any kind to be established by the House and Ann Treneman, who watches and reports on the debates in the Chamber from the lofty heights of the “Lobby” is more qualified than most to comment on whether or not it is helping to modernise the Commons and transfer power to the ordinary backbench MPs.

Ann told Natascha: “The tone of the debates are slightly different, they are less “yarboo and me you” they are much more thoughtful and you feel that people are heading towards the same goals, which is amazing in Parliament really!”

In this special interview, a series Ann is conducting on Reform of the Commons in her “Face to Face Encounters” series for http://www.wpradio.co.uk, Natscha told Ann as they sat in the lower library of the Press Gallery in the Commons:

• “People used to talk about the dark forces of the whips offices, and that really has changed. The Backbench Business Committee has made a massive difference to how we work in Parliament. People have to take responsibility for what is being debated and there are no whips to ask anymore and that really has made a big difference.”

• “People refer to the “usual channels “ in hushed tones that really is the whips offices and all the civil servants who work around that. It’s not as murky and dark as I thought it was, it is all about timetabling like at school and it is nothing more complicated than that!”

• “It is really very, very, different, the person who controls the time usually controls the agenda. It is an enormously powerful tool. There was civil war happening out in the streets during the Miners Strike, but it was never debated on the floor of the House, because it was in the interests of both sides not to have it happen. We have scheduled debates on the Big Society, on the Middle East and North Africa, and after we have scheduled it the Government has scheduled the same debate as it is more appropriate to be in Government time. We can really raise the profile of something and embarrass the Government into doing things.”

• “We are given 35 days a year, that is about one day a week, but it is down to Government to decide when that day happens, so the next debate we have is 10th March. We wanted to give backbenchers ownership over their own time so we meet in public and that is really, really important. It is not just eight of us sitting in a room together.”

• “It is all drop in and Ad Hoc and it is televised – so far nothing terrible has happened but I think it is really important that we meet in public. We go into private session afterwards and then say which debate has the greatest merit. We could be more open in saying why we have chosen one debate over another. “

• “Geoffrey Robinson MP scheduled one of the first debates on “Contaminated Blood” about the 1970s scandal, and the compensation package. He had to write the motion, put it down on the order paper, and find Tellers for the debate. He had to get organised and he said how uplifting that was and he had been the Paymaster General, a very serious minister. “

• “It is actually the longer serving members who are finding the way that the Backbench Business Committee works is really making a difference to the life of Parliament, while the new ones are using it as part of their campaigns. There is an interesting difference between their attitudes to the Committee.”

• “Most of the time actually ministers ultimately do welcome the debates that we schedule. It might be a pain to deal with things, but if we schedule it they have to deal with it, and make a statement and have a policy position, it actually helps them. They say how grown up the debates have been.”

• “What I thought was lacking here, you were either a backbencher or frontbencher, and you either became a Minister or sat on a Select Committee and the backbenchers were somewhere where you languished. I hope that in years to come that the Backbench Business Committee will be a forum for holding government to account in a way that is exciting. One of the things I find exciting is that when we have a debate and there is one in Westminster Hall too, there is a real buzz and a real excitement in the air and that is really good. Backbenchers can see the role of the “backbenchers” having a role in itself. Your hands aren’t tied by collective responsibility – it is really exciting.”

Strangely if you listen to the podcast broadcast on http://www.wpradio.co.uk “Face to Face Encounters” series you will find Ann agreed with Natascha most of the time!

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

International Womens day – two women MPs two issues!

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio
March 4th 2011

Www.wpradio talks to Rachel Reeves MP about those women who are having to wait two years longer for their pensions and Fiona Mactaggart MP on her International Women’s Day campaign

Rachel Reeves MP, the Shadow Minister for Pensions for the Labour Party, is calling on the coalition Conservative Liberal Democrat Government to reverse the changes it has announced to delay the pension age for women by two years, in some cases.

The MP for Leeds West, tells Women’s Parliamentary Radio, http://www.wpradio.co.uk that it’s about time the Women’s Minister, Theresa May MP and the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone MP, stood up for women and called on the Government to announce a “U” turn on this issue as it has done recently on selling off forest lands.

Ms Reeve told Boni Sones OBE, our Executive Producer that women are being hit by a double whammy as they come up to pensionable age and that 33,000 women will have to wait for two years longer before they can retire:

“These changes are being debated now in the Lords and in the Commons in May and June. The State Pension Age will be equalised for men and women in 2018 rather than 2020 and the State Pension Age will increase to 66 in 2020 rather than 2026.

“The impact of this will mean 4.9 million people will have to wait longer before they receive their state pension. But 500,000 women will have to wait for more than a year longer, of those, 300,000 will have to wait for more than 18 months longer, and 33,000 women will have to wait for two years longer before they receive their State pension, these are the women who will be turning 57 this Spring.

“They have had very little time to prepare for the changes, which start in five years times in 2016 and they will now be 65 or 66 before they can retire. I believe these changes are unfair because this group of women don’t have the savings to compensate for the changes.”

She said that to add “insult” to injury these women have been told that they can claim “unemployment” benefit instead by the Pensions Minister Steve Webb:

“I asked the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, what these women were supposed to do and I got quite an insulting response. He said these women could claim unemployment benefit, but they have worked all their lives, many have brought up children, they don’t want a hand out they want the pension they have contributed to all of their lives and they want them at the age they thought they were going to get it. In 1995 they were told the State Pension age would increase from 60 to 65, and now to heap these changes on top of those with just a few weeks’ notice is unfair. The unemployment benefits are £40 a week less than the pension they would be entitled to.”

Ms Reeve MP, said women were “disproportionately” affected by the changes compared to men, and that this group of women, turning 57 next week, will lose up to £5,000 a year:

“No man will have to work for more than a year longer as a result of these changes whereas half a million women will have to work for more than a year longer, women are disproportionately affected. Steve Webb has done a gender audit, but the audit done looks at the lifetime income of a man compared to women, and he’s said because women live longer than men they don’t lose out. But for those two years women are not getting their State Pension, they will lose up to £5000 a year and if they don’t get a job there is very little compensation for them.”

She said that these women were part of that “Big Society” and had not only worked but had cared for others too. Only relatively recently have they been able to join a proper pension scheme because part-time workers used to be prohibited from joining:

“This group of women are not really in a financial position to absorb these changes. The average 56 years old has £9,100 worth of pension savings worth £11 a week, whereas a man has a pension savings of £52,800 – that is nearly six times higher than women, we are not starting from the same base.

“Many of these women have taken time to look after their family, sometimes bringing up grandchildren too or looking after elderly parents, these women are the Big Society in action.

“Until the 1990s firms didn’t have to offer occupational pensions to part-time workers, so many of these women were not allowed to contribute to pensions throughout their life. Many were not paying the full stamp duty because they were in lower paid part-time work, so there is a huge inequality with their pension savings. Then there is the difference in average pay too between men and women so they have had very little time to prepare for these changes, it is not fair.”

Ms Reeve MP also pointed out that these women would lose out on the other benefits pensioners got and the poorest would be hardest hit:

“The other big thing is about prescriptions, so those who are poorer who have ill health lose out most, and also the housing benefits associated with it, so all in all this is a very raw deal for women approaching retirement. If you are having your State Pension age delayed for two years you will be losing £10,000 and if you are also claiming pension credit you will be losing around £15,000. There is also the loss of housing benefit, prescriptions and travel as well.”

She called on Women’s Minister, Theresa May MP and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone to join the cross party campaign to reverse the changes:

“We’ve tabled an EDM, Early Day Motion, which has 70 signatures, with Lid Dems and Conservatives too, and we also have support in the Lords. I want to build up cross-party support for this.

“Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone do need to say what their views are on these changes and what conversations they have had. As Minister for Women and as the Minister for Equalities and in the lead up to International Women’s Day they really should be championing the case for women. The women most affected will be turning 57 this coming Sunday, and what a great birthday present to say to them across party we will reverse these changes.

“We have united the Trade Unions, Saga, Age Uk and the Daily Mail saying the Government should reverse these changes and I hope the Government, like on forests, will think again because they changes are not fair or proportionate and they will pay the price at the ballot box for this one!”

Fiona Mactaggart MP calls on the Government to set up a “Women and Equalities Audit Committee” on International Women’s Day

Fiona Mactaggart the Labour MP for Slough and Shadow Spokeswoman on Women is campaigning to set up a “Women and Equalities Audit Committee” on International Women’s Day.

Fiona will use the International Women’s Day debate on March 10th in the Commons to call for the Government to be made accountable on all women’s issue through the mechanism of a new Committee that will audit Government Departments on how they are treating women across the board.

“The Foreign Affairs Committee has just published a report on Afghanistan which doesn’t sufficiently address the concerns of women in Afghanistan, so what is the future for women in that Country? In the Democratic Republic of Congo women are being raped and re-raped as a weapon of war, so we need to focus on women around the World.

“We need to tackle the issue of women’s voice, and representation of women and one of the things we don’t do well enough in Parliament is to make sure that the Government is held to account on the issues of women and equalities. I have tabled an amendment to make sure we do that, to suggest that we create a “Women and Equalities Audit Committee” so that we can quiz any government department about the impact of their policies on women.

“This year we haven’t announced what we are going to give to the UN Women Committee, when 30 or so Countries have. Our silence will mean that some Countries will hold back too, so we need to make sure every government department is accountable on women, whether it is DFID on UN women, or DWP where women are paying for the pension’s crisis, or the Home Office on violence against women. On all of these things we need to hold Government to account and an Equalities Select Committee could do that.

“Spain has already pledged 22 million dollars to UN women, Britain has not pledged anything it is time for us to step-up.”

Fiona said she felt the government had “deliberately damaged” Labour’s Equality Act passed at the end of the last Parliament. She said she was shocked by the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb’s suggestion to cut back women’s pensions by as much as £10,000 with so little notice in his attempt to equalise the pension age for men and women:

“There is a lack of understanding in this Government about women’s lives. The reason for gender auditing was to make sure Government’s couldn’t be gender blind. The fact they are avoiding gender audits, and looking at dropping a number of equalities duties is evidence of this. The gay marriage proposals are a “cover”, it’s important, but not a radical change -a crime that is no longer a crime should be wiped off somebody’s record – , it is being “bigged up” to provide a smoke screen for the fact that the legislation being put in front of us in reactionary.”

Fiona said in the UK the new Equalities Act would need to be monitored by the appropriate Commission in order to ensure it was implemented effectively:

“If the Equalities and Human Rights Commission acts as a regulator in holding the government to account there is still a prospect the Equality Bill will make a difference to women and children’s lives and that is what we need to work towards.”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.